While the Marvel Zombies franchise has been winding down the past few years, Marvel seems determined to keep the idea going in some form or another. Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine #1 is essentially more of the same thing that we've seen several times over.
This is a prequel to horror writer Jonathan Maberry's Marvel Universe vs The Punisher miniseries that came out last year. Maberry returns as the writer for Marvel Universe vs Wolverine; which seems to do cartwheels in order to explain that this isn't a stereotypical zombie story or a knockoff of Marvel Zombies. Using Reed Richards as his mouthpiece, Maberry says that the infected heroes and civilians aren't actually the walking dead. Instead they have become super-evolved cannibals who can almost instantly adapt to their environment and survive.
The story doesn't have the dark humor of Robert Kirkman's Marvel Zombies series and it goes out of its way to suggest that the infected heroes still have at least traces of their original personalities, just overwhelmed by their new primitive instincts to feed and hunt on the remaining population. There's nobody going around as completely mindless zombies and technically, none of the infected share many characteristics with zombies other than their sudden taste for human flesh.
Where this book shines is the narration of Wolverine. Maberry has an immediate knack for Wolverine's inner voice and its this story choice that keeps the miniseries from falling flat on its face. I wouldn't mind seeing Maberry on a regular Wolverine story down the line. But in this book, I have a hard time believing that the Fantastic Four would ever call in Wolverine to consult on this case for his close relationship to Spider-Man or that Wolverine is kept in the loop by Hank Pym and Mr. Fantastic as they further their research. That's really pushing the credibility of the story just to get the protagonist in the right place to deal with the unfolding events.
There's also the suggestion made by Wolverine that someone engineered the changes to the infected; which implies that there's a villain out there behind the events of both this series and its follow up. Additionally, another infected individual stays off panel while striking at Wolverine through one of his teammates. The identity of this killer isn't revealed within this issue, but the smart money is on Sabretooth, given his history with Wolverine.
Maberry also scripts a strong sequence that bookends the issue in which Wolverine has to deal with his infected X-Men teammates in the most extreme way that he can. A fan favorite character even gets some adamantium claws straight through his head, in one of the more memorable panels.
Artist Laurence Campbell has his moments, but for the most part his figures are very dark and poorly defined. Campbell is the only credited artist, so these murky pages may have been colored straight from his pencils. My major problem with the art as presented here is that the expressions of the characters are way too static and emotionless for the events that are happening around them. The long scenes of exposition become really boring when characters are just standing around and they don't even look like they're listening to anything scarier than a report about our economic recovery.
As a comic, this falls squarely into the "okay" territory. It's not bad, but it's not as good as I'd like it to be. If this was the only Wolverine book coming out this month, it would be worth picking up to get your fix. However, you can get a better Wolverine story in his own book and better zombie-like survivor tales elsewhere.
Crave Online Rating: 6/10